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Margaret Bourke-White: Otis Steel Co. (1928-1929) 
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Margaret Bourke-White studied photography at the Clarence H. White School of Photography and was prepared to carry out assignments that were normally male-dominated. Her publication on the The Otis Steel Company - Pioneer, Cleveland. Ohio is an outstanding example of the use of a Pictorialist style applied to documentary photography.[1] The same approach was used by Doris Ulmann, who also studied at the Clarence H. White School of Photography, when she took the photographs for Roll, Jordan, Roll that was published in 1933.[2]
One of Bourke-White's clients was Otis Steel Company. Her success was due to her skills with both people and her technique. Her experience at Otis is a good example. As she explains in Portrait of Myself, the Otis security people were reluctant to let her shoot for many reasons: First, steel making was a defense industry, so they wanted to be sure national security was not affected. Secondly, she was a woman and in those days people wondered if a woman and her delicate cameras could stand up to the intense heat, hazard, and generally dirty and gritty conditions inside a steel mill. When she got permission, the technical problems began. Black and white film in that era was sensitive to blue light, not the reds and oranges of hot steel—she could see the beauty, but the pictures were coming out all black. She solved this problem by bringing along a new style of magnesium flare (which produces white light) and having assistants hold them to light her scenes. Her abilities resulted in some of the best steel factory pictures of that era, and these earned her national attention.[3]

  1. Λ Margaret Bourke-White, 1929, The Otis Steel Company - Pioneer, Cleveland. Ohio, (Privately printed) 
  2. Λ Judith Peterkin & Doris Ulmann, 1933, Roll, Jordan, Roll, (New York: Robert O. Ballou) 
  3. Λ Wikipedia - Accessed: 30 October 2010
    Margaret Bourke-White, 1963, Portrait of Myself, (Simon Schuster) 
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